The Principles of War Podcast
150th Anniversary of Australian ArtilleryArtilleryPodcast

64 – In Action – Boer War Artillery and the First Shot of the First World War

This episode looks at the Australian Boer War Artillery and the First Shot of World War 1.

What role did Australian Boer War Artillery play?

The Second Boer War stated on the 11th of October, 1899.  The NSW Government immediately offered A Battery, but at the start, only it’s Battery Commander was required, CAPT Horace Dangar.  In December the offer was accepted and it arrived in Capetown on the 5th of February, 1900.  The Battery Sergeant Major was WO William ‘Stripey’ Coleman, who had previously served in the Sudan

The war lasted 2 1/2 years.  The British Empire deployed 450,000 troops. 16175 were from Australia.  3.6% More than 100,000 were casualties.  Austrailian  casualties were 251 killed in action,  257 died of wounds 1400 wounded. Australia’s population at the time was just 3.6 million, .42% served in Boer war.  50% of the population was 15-44, and assuming 50% males 1.7% of those eligible  or 1 in 58 served in Boer war.  Sixty women served as nurses.  

‘A’ Battery was issued 6 x 15 pounder Breech Loading field guns.  We also look at the experience gained by Australian Officers.  For Australia’s Boer War Artillery, it was a significant deployment and the officers received invaluable operational experience that would be critical in the early engagements in Gallipoli 15 years later.

On the 5th of August 1914 at 07:45 the SS Pfalz, a German Merchantman steamed out of Port Melbourne.  As war had been declared, the Commander of Fort Queenscliff ordered that the Pfalz be stopped.  It was ordered to heave to but it refused to.  A navy midshipman hoisted the international maritime signal flag ‘H’ for hostile, which granted authority for the guns at Fort Nepean to open fire, which it did.  

 Gun Emplacement No 6 fired a single round at about 12:45pm on Wednesday 5 August 1914. In London, it was 2:45am GMT on 5 August.  The gun, a 6-inch Mark 7 naval gun had been loaded with 123lbs (56kg) of cordite and a 100lb (45kg) projectile.  This shot is widely proclaimed as the first shot fired by the British Empire in the First World War.

The ship heaved to, was boarded, and interned as a prize of war.  The crew were in interned.

This is the first of a special series of podcasts commemorating 150 years of permanent Artillery in Australia.

Listen to the podcast episode on your favourite podcast player to hear more details of Australia’s Boer War Artillery and the first shot of the First World War.

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